Wind Power to the Rescue

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Texas has just taken a big step in the field of alternative energy -- the Public Utilities Commission today gave

preliminary approval

to a massive, $5 billion plan to bring wind power from gusty West Texas to urban areas across the state.

Consumers will probably see about four bucks a month added to their electric bill.

"We will add more wind than the 14 states following Texas combined," PUC Commissioner Paul Hudson told the Associated Press. "I think that's a very extraordinary achievement. Some think we haven't gone far enough, some think we've pushed too far."

You might be surprised just how forward-thinking Texas -- supposedly the land of Big Oil dinosaurs -- is when it comes to wind power.

The biggest wind farm in the world is near Sweetwater, in north-central Texas.

According to Texas' State Energy Conservation Office, wind capacity in Texas has grown from 180 megawatts in 1999 to almost 4,300 last year. That figure of 4,300 accounts for almost a quarter of all wind energy produced in the U.S.

Suits have been filed against Texas wind farms, claiming they are a source of noise pollution and are just plain ugly, but they've been tossed out of court.

Brian Lloyd, special projects manager for the PUC, tells Hair Balls that it might be as little as four to six years before the energy from the $5 billion project starts showing up in Texas homes.

When you consider the logistics of building lines, buying property, getting rights -- that's pretty quick. That's because Texas' energy issues are self-contained, Lloyd says. Other energy authorities are regional, so projects cross state lines, requiring federal approval and interstate negotiating.

So here's to Texas and wind power.

Maybe it does suck to live right next to a wind farm. But frankly, we don't think we'd even mind it if we saw one next to the offshore oil rigs of Galveston.

-- Richard Connelly

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